The Diamond Sutra
(The discourse on transcendent awareness in 300 lines)
Homage to the beautiful, the sacred transcendent awareness.
The Diamond Sutra
1.a The assembly
 Thus have I heard at one time. The
Buddha was in Sravasti, in
the Jeta Grove, in Anathapindada's park, with a large group of
monks, 1250 monks and many great bodhisattvas. Early in the
morning the Lord Buddha got dressed, took his bowl, and went to
Sravasti for alms. When he had eaten, he returned to the park,
put his bowl and coat away, washed his feet, and sat down on the
seat that had been arranged for him. He crossed his legs, sat
upright, and looked straight ahead. Many monks approached,
saluted his feet, walked around him three times, and sat down to
1.b Subhuti asks
 Then the venerable Subhuti arrived and
sat down. After rising
and adjusting his robe, he knelt on one knee and with folded
hands said to the Buddha, "It's great, oh lord Buddha, it's
exceedingly wonderful, oh well-traveled one, how much the
bodhisattvas have been benefited by you, who knows where it's at,
the superior man, the fully enlightened one. It's great how these
bodhisattvas have been so highly favored by you, the one who
knows where it's at, the superior man, the fully enlightened one.
How should such favored bodhisattvas behave, proceed, and tame
The Buddha answered Subhuti, "Good
question, good question
Subhuti. You're right. The one who knows where it's at has helped
the bodhisattvas, greatly helped them, favored them with the
highest favor. So listen up, Subhuti. I'll tell you how those who
have set out on the bodhisattva's way of life should behave,
proceed, and tame their thoughts."
"So be it, Buddha." replied Subhuti, as he perked up.
2 The bodhisattva's career
2.a The bodhisattva's intention
 The Buddha said, "Subhuti, a person
who has set out on the
bodhisattva's way of life should think, 'I must lead all the
beings of the universe to nirvana, whether they are born from an
egg, from a womb, from scum, or they miraculously appear; I must
lead them into nirvana where nothing remains behind. And yet,
although innumerable beings have been thus led to nirvana, no
being whatsoever has been led to nirvana.'
Why is that? If a bodhisattva thinks of a
'being' he or she
is no bodhisattva. Why is that? He or she is no bodhisattva if
they think in terms of a self or a being, or in terms of a living
person or a soul."
 "Moreover, Subhuti, a bodhisattva who
shares with others
should free themselves. When sharing, they should be free from
lust for beautiful sights, lovely sounds, gourmet tastes or
smells, tactile enjoyments, and seductive thoughts. The
bodhisattva should give to others without being influenced by
seductive things. Why is that? Because a bodhisattva who shares
uninfluenced by such things will reap vast benefits.
"What do you think, Subhuti? Can you
comprehend the vastness
of space to the east?"
"No, blessed one! It is impossible to comprehend the
vastness of space in the east."
"Subhuti, is it possible to comprehend the limits of space
in the north, the south, or the west? Or any direction in the
"No, world-honored one."
"Subhuti, it is equally impossible to comprehend the vast
benefits that incur to a bodhisattva who shares without being
seduced by appearances."
 "What do you think, Subhuti? Can
someone see the well-
traveled one in the phenomena of physical presence?"
"No, honored one! It is impossible to even see the well-
traveled one in the phenomena of his physical presence. Why?
Because the phenomena of his physical presence is not the same as
the essential well-traveled one."
"You are right, Subhuti. The phenomena of the physical
presence is wholly illusion. It is not until a person understands
this that he can realize the true well-traveled one."
 Subhuti respectfully asked the lord
buddha, "Honored one! In
the future, if a person hears this teaching, or a part of it,
whether a section or a sentence, will true faith awaken in their
"No doubt about it, Subhuti. Even 500 years after the
nirvana of the well-traveled one there will be some who,
practicing charity and keeping the faith, will believe in
sections and sentences of this scripture and will awaken their
minds purely. Know, however, that such persons, long ago, planted
seeds of goodness, not simply before one buddhist temple, or two,
or five, but before hundreds of thousands of buddhas, so that
when they hear sections and sentences of this scripture a pure
faith will awaken within their minds.
"Subhuti, the well-traveled one knows that the sentient
beings who awaken faith upon hearing sections or sentences of
this scripture will accumulate inestimable blessings and merit.
How do I know this? Because these sentient beings must have
already discarded such arbitrary conceptions of phenomena as
one's own self, other selves, living beings, and a universal
self. If they had not, their minds would inevitably grasp after
such things and they would then not be able to practice charity
nor keep the precepts.
"Moreover, these sentient beings must also have discarded all
arbitrary notions of a personal self, other personalities, living
beings, and a universal self. Otherwise their minds would
inevitably grasp after such relative conceptions. Furthermore,
these sentient beings must have already discarded all arbitrary
notions of the non-existence of a personal self, other
personalities, living beings, and a universal self. Otherwise,
their minds would still be grasping at such notions. Therefore
everyone who seeks total enlightenment should discard not only
conceptions of their own selfhood, other selves, living beings,
and a universal self, but they should also discard all notions of
the non-existence of such conceptions.
When the well-traveled one, in teaching, uses conceptions
and ideas, people should remember the unreality of all such
concepts and ideas. They should recall that the well-traveled
one, in teaching spiritual truths, always uses such notions in
the way that a raft is used to cross a river. The raft is of no
more use when the river has been crossed, and should be
discarded. So these arbitrary conceptions of and about spiritual
things should be given us as one attains enlightenment. How much
more should one give up conceptions of non-existent things?"
 "What do you think, Subhuti? Has the
attained anything that can be described as complete
enlightenment? Has he ever given you any such teaching?"
Subhuti replied, "As I understand the teaching of the lord
buddha, there is no such thing as complete enlightenment, nor is
it possible for the well-traveled one to teach any fixed
spiritual truth. Why? Because the things taught by the well-
traveled one are, in their essential nature, inconceivable and
inscrutable; they are neither existent nor non-existent; they are
neither phenomena nor noumena. What does this mean? It means that
buddhas and bodhisattvas are not enlightened by fixed teachings,
but by an intuitive process, spontaneous and natural."
 "What do you think Subhuti? If a
follower gave treasures
enough to fill 3,000 universes, would that person gain
considerable blessings and merit?"
Subhuti replied, "Considerable blessings and merit. Why?
Because what the lord buddha has referred to as blessings and
merit does not refer to anything objective, he merely refers to
such things in a relative way.
The lord buddha continued, "If another, after studying and
observing even a single stanza of this scripture, explains its
meaning to others, their blessings and merit will be much
greater. Why is that? Because from explanations such as these
buddhas have attained unsurpassed enlightenment, and their
teachings come from this sacred scripture. However, Subhuti, I
must take back my words as soon as they are uttered, for there
are no buddhas and no teachings."
 "What do you think, Subhuti? Suppose
someone has entered the
flow. Could that person arbitrarily say, 'I have entered the
Subhuti replied, "No way man. Because, even though they have
entered the flow, truly they have not entered anything, nor has
their mind entertained such arbitrary conceptions as form, sound,
taste, odor, tactile thing, or discrimination. Thus are such
people known to have entered the flow."
"What do you think, Subhuti? Suppose someone has only one
more life to traverse? Could that person say 'I have only one
more life to go'?"
"No way man. Because even if set to return only one more
time, truly there is no rebirth either in this world or any
other. By knowing this someone has only one more life to
"What do you think Subhuti? Suppose someone will never be
reborn. Could that person say, 'I won't be reborn again'?"
"No way man. Because even though they won't be reborn, they
don't really think in such arbitrary terms. Because of which they
won't be reborn again."
"What do you think, Subhuti? Suppose someone is completely
awake. Would that person think, 'I am awake'?"
"No way man. Because there really isn't such a thing as a
truly awakened person. If someone harbored a thought such as 'I
am awake' they would find themselves attached to ideas about a
self, other selves, living beings, and a universal self. Oh Lord,
you have said that I have become passively atuned, have reached
the pinnacle of my potential, and am therefore awakened. If I
cherished the thought, 'I am awake, free of desire!' you, good
lord, would not have said that I delight in the practice of
silence and tranquility. But, in truth, I have cherished no such
arbitrary thought, so you could truly say, 'Subhuti delights in
the practice of silence and tranquility."
 "What do you think, Subhuti? When the
well-traveled one was,
in a previous life, with Dipankara buddha, did I receive any
definite teaching or attain any definite degree of self-control,
whereby I later became a buddha?"
"No, honorable one. When the well-traveled one was a
disciple of Dipankara buddha, in truth, he received no definite
teaching, nor did he attain any definite supremacy."
"What do you think, Subhuti? Do the great bodhisattvas
embellish the elysian fields to which they go?"
"No way man. And why is that? Because what you mean by the
expression, 'embellish the elysian fields' is self-contradictory,
for elysian fields thus embellished would no longer be called
elysian fields. Therefore the expression 'embellishment of the
elysian fields' is merely a figure of speech."
The lord buddha continued, "Therefore, Subhuti, the minds of
all bodhisattvas should be purified of all thoughts that relate
to seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and
discriminating. They should use their mental faculties
spontaneously and naturally, without being constrained by
preconceived notions arising from the senses.
"Subhuti, suppose a person's body was as big as the highest
mountain. What do you think? Would that body be considered huge?"
"Exceedingly huge, world-honored one! Because what you
really mean by the expression 'huge body' is not limited by any
arbitrary conception, so it can correctly be called huge."
 "What do you think, Subhuti? If there
are as many Ganges
Rivers as there are grains of sand in the river Ganges, will
these rivers be numerous?"
"Exceedingly numerous, lord."
"Suppose there were these innumerable rivers, how
immeasurable would be their grains of sand! Subhuti, if a good
and faithful person, whether man or woman, were to give gifts of
desirable things equal to those grains of sand in all those
Ganges Rivers, would the merit accrued be considerable?"
"A very considerable merit, my lord."
"Subhuti, if another person, after studying and observing
even one stanza of this scripture, were to explain it to others,
their merit would be greater."
 "Furthermore, Subhuti, if any person
in any place were to
teach even one stanza of this scripture, that place would become
sacred ground and would be revered by numerous kinds of beings,
as if it were a sacred temple. How much more sacred would the
place become if that person studied and observed the whole
scripture! Be assured, Subhuti, such a person will attain total
enlightenment, and the place where this scripture is reverenced
will be like an altar consecrated to the buddha, or to one of his
[13a] Subhuti said to the blessed one, "By
what name shall we
know this scripture, so that it can be honored and studied?"
The lord buddha replied, "This scripture shall be known as
The Transcendent Awareness that Cuts Like a Diamond. By this name
it shall be revered and studied and observed. What does this name
mean? It means that when the buddha named it, he did not have in
mind any definite or arbitrary conception, and so named it. This
scripture is hard and sharp, like a diamond that will cut away
all arbitrary conceptions and bring one to the other shore of
"What do you think, Subhuti? Has the well-traveled one given
you any definite teaching in this scripture?"
"No blessed lord, the well-traveled one has not given us any
definite teaching in this scripture."
[13b] "What do you think, Subhuti? Are the
atoms in 3,000 worlds
"Very numerous indeed, lord."
"Subhuti, when the well-traveled one speaks of atoms, it
does not mean I am thinking any definite or arbitrary thought, I
merely use the words as a figure of speech. It is just the same
with the word universe; these words do not assert any definite or
arbitrary idea, I merely use the words as words."
[13c] "What do you think, Subhuti? Can
someone grasp the well-
traveled one's personality by its 32 marks of physical
"No blessed one! We cannot grasp the well-traveled one's
wonderful personality by its 32 marks of excellence. Why? Because
what the well-traveled one has expressed as '32 marks of physical
excellence' does not convey any definite or arbitrary assertions
as to the qualities of a buddha. The words are merely used as a
figure of speech."
[13d] "Subhuti, if a good and faithful
follower, whether male or
female, has, for the sake of charity, been sacrificing their life
for generation upon generation, for as many generations as the
grains of sands in 3,000 universes; and another follower has been
merely studying and observing a single stanza of this scripture
and explaining it to others, their blessings and merit will be
[14a] As Subhuti listened intently to the
words of the lord
buddha, the teachings of this scripture penetrated his awareness,
and he realized it to be the true path to enlightenment. With
tears in his eyes, he said, "Oh, blessed lord, I have never
before understood this profound scripture. You have opened my
eyes to transcendent awareness.
"Honored one, what has been taught about the true
significance of phenomena has no arbitrary or limited meaning.
This teaching is, as you say, a raft to carry us to the other
shore. Noble lord, when, as now, I have the chance to hear this
scripture, it is not difficult to concentrate my mind upon it and
clearly understand its significance; it awakens within my mind a
pure faith. In the future, after 500 years, if there are any
ready to hear it and ready to attain enlightenment, able to
concentrate their minds upon it, able to clearly understand it,
able to awaken a pure faith in it, such a person will thereby
become a wonderful and preeminent person. And if there are such
people, they will be able to awaken pure faith because they have
ceased to cherish any arbitrary notions of their own selfhood,
other selves, living beings, or a universal self. Why? Because if
they are cherishing any arbitrary conception as to their own
selfhood, they will be cherishing something that is non-existent.
It is the same with all arbitrary conceptions of other selves,
living beings, a universal self. These are all expressions of
non-existent things. Such a person, able to discard all arbitrary
conceptions of and about phenomena, will immediately become a
The lord buddha was very pleased with this reply, saying,
"True, quite true. If a person, having heard this scripture, is
not surprised, nor frightened, and does not shrink from it, they
are a truly wonderful person."
[14b] "In talking about the practice of
the well-traveled one does not hold onto any arbitrary
conceptions about the phenomena of patience, he merely refers to
it as the practice of transcendent patience. And why is that?
Because when, in a previous life, the Prince of Kalinga severed
the flesh from my limbs and my body, even then I was free from
such ideas as my own self, other selves, living beings, and a
universal self. For if, at the time of my suffering, I had
cherished any of these arbitrary notions, I would have fallen
into impatience and hatred.
"Besides, Subhuti, I remember that during my five hundred
previous lives I had used life after life to practice patience
and to look upon my life humbly, as though I were a saint called
upon to suffer humility. Even then my mind was free of arbitrary
conceptions of the phenomena of my self, other selves, living
beings, or a universal self."
[14c] The lord buddha continued, "When a
begins to practice toward attaining unsurpassed enlightenment, he
or she must give up attachment to arbitrary ideas about reality.
When thinking, he or she should definitely banish all thought
connected with the sensory phenomena of sight, sound, taste,
smell, touch, and all discriminations based thereupon, keeping
the mind free of such arbitrary conceptions about reality. The
mind becomes disturbed by discriminating in terms of sense data
and the arbitrary conceptions that arise in their wake; as the
mind gets disturbed it begins to falsely imagine a self and its
relationship with other selves. Therefore the well-traveled one
has constantly urged the great bodhisattvas, in their practice of
sharing, not to be influenced by any arbitrary ideas about
reality, such as sights, sounds, and so forth.
"Great bodhisattvas should share uninfluenced by any
preconceived notions as to a self and other selves, and for the
sole purpose of benefitting sentient beings, always recalling
that both phenomena and sentient beings are to be considered as
mere expressions. Nevertheless, Subhuti, the teachings of the
well-traveled one are all true, credible, unchangeable; they are
neither extravagant nor chimerical. The same is true of the
attainments of the well-traveled one--they are neither real nor
"Subhuti, if a great bodhisattva, in practicing charity,
holds within his or her mind any of these arbitrary conceptions,
thereby discriminating self from other selves, he or she will be
like a person walking in the darkness and seeing nothing. But if
a great bodhisattva, in practicing charity, has no arbitrary
conception of receiving blessings and merit by such practice, he
or she will be like a person with clear sight, seeing all things
in bright sunshine.
"If, in the future, there is a worthwhile man or woman able
to observe and study this scripture, their success and attainment
of inconceivable blessings and merit will be instantly known and
appreciated by the overarching vision of the well-traveled one.
 The lord buddha continued, "Subhuti,
if a good person,
whether male or female, in their zeal to practice charity is
willing to sacrifice their life in the morning, at mid-day, or in
the evening, on as many occasions as there are grains of sand in
the river Ganges, and these occasions recur for a 100,000 eons,
would the blessings and merit be great?"
"It would be great indeed, lord buddha."
"Supposing, Subhuti, another person were to observe and
study this scripture with pure faith. Their blessings and merit
would be greater. And if still another person, besides observing
and studying this scripture, were to enthusiastically explain it
to others and copy and circulate it, their blessings and merit
would be far greater.
"In other words, Subhuti, this scripture is invested with an
inestimable, illimitable, ineffable virtue and power. The well-
traveled one elucidates this scripture only to those persons who
are earnestly and perserveringly seeking to perfectly realize
total enlightenment and attain the bodhisattva stages of
compassion that characterize the greater path. As people are able
to enthusiastically and faithfully observe and study this
scripture, explain it to others and circulate it widely, the
well-traveled one will recognize and support them until they
succeed in attaining its inestimable, illimitable, and wonderful
virtues. Such people will share with the well-traveled one its
task of compassion and its reward of total enlightenment.
"And why, Subhuti, is this promise limited to the followers
of the greater path? Because the followers of the lesser path
have not yet been able to free themselves from such arbitrary
conceptions as personal selfhood, other personalities, living
beings, and a universal self, and are therefore not yet able to
faithfully and earnestly observe and study and explain this
scripture to others.
"Listen up Subhuti! Wherever this scripture shall be
observed and studied and explained, that place will become sacred
ground to which countless spiritually advanced beings will bring
offerings. Such places, however humble they may be, will be
reverenced as though they were famous temples, and countless
pilgrims will come there to worship. Over them spiritually
advanced beings will hover, sprinkling that place with celestial
 The blessed one continued, "Subhuti,
should there be among
the faithful some who have not yet matured their karma and who
must first suffer the natural retribution of evils committed in
some previous life by being degraded to a lower life form, and
should they earnestly and faithfully observe and study this
scripture, and thereby be despised and persecuted by people,
their karma will immediately mature and they will attain supreme,
"Subhuti, I recall that long ago, numerous eons before the
time of Dipankara buddha, without my having been at fault, I
served and worshiped and received spiritual instruction and
discipline from 84,000 myriad buddhas. Yet in the far future ages
of the last era of this world, if a student faithfully observes,
studies, and puts into practice the teachings in this scripture,
the blessing that will accrue will far exceed that acquired by me
during those long years of service and discipline under those
many buddhas. Yes, it will exceed my poor merit, billions to one.
Yes, even more, it will exceed uncountable myriads to one.
The lord buddha continued, "Subhuti, in contrast to what I
have said about the inestimable blessing that will come to
earnest followers who observe and study and practice this
scripture in that far off time, I must tell you that there will
probably be some students who, upon hearing this scripture, will
become bewildered and will not believe what they hear. Subhuti,
you should remember that just as the spiritual message of this
scripture transcends human thought, so also the effect and the
final result of studying it and putting it into practice is
 Then Subhuti asked the lord buddha,
"Suppose a good person,
either man or woman, having aimed themself toward total
enlightenment, still finds their mind to be disturbed. How are
they to keep the mind tranquil, how subdue wandering thoughts and
"The lord buddha replied, "Subhuti, any good person who
concentrates on attaining total enlightenment should cherish one
thought: the intention to attain the highest transcendent
awareness in order to show all sentient beings the eternal peace
and freedom of nirvana. If this intention is sincere, these
sentient beings are already freed. And yet, Subhuti, if the full
truth is realized, one knows that not a single sentient being has
ever been freed. And why, Subhuti? Because if the great
bodhisattvas have held onto any such arbitrary conceptions as
one's own self, other selves, living beings, or a universal self,
they could not be called great bodhisattvas. And what does this
mean, Subhuti? It means that there are no sentient beings to be
freed and there is no selfhood that can begin the practice of
seeking to attain total enlightenment.
"What do you think, Subhuti? When the well-traveled one was
with the buddha Dipankara did he have any such arbitrary
conception of the spiritual truth by which he sought to attain
total enlightenment intuitively?"
"No, blessed lord. As I understand what you are saying, when
you were with buddha Dipankara you had no such arbitrary
conception of spirituality by which you sought total
The lord buddha was very pleased with this, and said, "You
are right, Subhuti. Speaking truthfully there is no such
arbitrary conception of spiritual truth as that. If there had
been, Dipankara would not have predicted that in some future life
I would attain buddhahood under the name Shakyamuni. What does
this mean Subhuti? It means that what I attained is not something
limited and arbitrary that can be called 'total enlightenment,'
but is that buddhahood whose being is identical with the being of
all things and is what it is--universal, inconceivable,
"Suppose, Subhuti, there were a student who asserts that the
well-traveled one had some ideas about the spiritual truth that
warranted his seeking to attain complete enlightenment.
Understand, Subhuti, that the well-traveled one truly had no
ideas of the spiritual truth by which he sought to attain total
The lord buddha emphasized this by saying, "Subhuti, the
buddhahood which the well-traveled one attained is both the same
and not the same as total enlightenment. This is merely another
way of saying that the phenomena of all things is one beingness
with buddhahood and complete enlightenment, and is neither
reality nor unreality, but is together with all phenomena in
openness and silence, inconceivable and inscrutable. Subhuti,
that is why I say that the spiritual truth of all things can
never be encompassed by any arbitrary conception of phenomena,
however universal that conception may be. That is why it is
called the truth, and that is why there is no such thing as the
"Subhuti, suppose I were to speak of the largeness of the
human body. What would you understand thereby?"
"World-honored one, I would understand that the lord buddha
was not speaking of the largeness of the human body as an
arbitrary conception of its being. I would understand that the
words carried merely an imaginary meaning."
"Subhuti, it is just the same when the great bodhisattvas
speak of delivering numberless sentient beings. If they have in
mind any arbitrary conception of sentient beings or of definite
numbers, they are unworthy of being called great bodhisattvas.
And why, Subhuti? Because the very reason they are called great
bodhisattvas is because they have abandoned all such arbitrary
conceptions. And what is true of one arbitrary conception is true
of all conceptions. The well-traveled one's teachings are
entirely free of all such arbitrary conceptions as one's own
self, other selves, living beings, and a universal self."
To make this teaching even more empathic, the lord buddha
continued, "If a great bodhisattva were to speak as follows, 'I
will add embellishments to the buddhafields' he would be unworthy
of being called a great bodhisattva. Why? Because the well-
traveled one has explicitly taught that when a great bodhisattva
uses such words, they must not bear in mind any such arbitrary
conception of phenomena; they are to use such expressions merely
as so many words.
"Subhuti, it is only those students whose understanding can
penetrate deeply enough into the meaning of the well-traveled
one's teachings concerning the egolessness of both things and
living beings, and who can clearly understand their significance,
that are worthy to be called great bodhisattvas."
 The buddha then asked Subhuti, "What
do you think? Does the
well-traveled one have ordinary eyes?"
"Subhuti replied, "Sure, he has ordinary eyes."
"Does he have the eyes of enlightenment?"
"Of course, the well-traveled one has the eyes of
enlightenment, otherwise he would not be the buddha."
"Does the well-traveled one have the eyes of transcendent
"Yes, the well-traveled one has the eyes of transcendent
"Does the well-traveled one have the eyes of spiritual
"Yes, lord, the well-traveled one has the eyes of spiritual
"Does the well-traveled one have the buddha eyes of love and
compassion for all sentient beings?"
Subhuti agreed and said, "Lord, you love all sentient life."
"What do you think, Subhuti? When I referred to the grains
of sand in the river Ganges, did I assert that they were truly
grains of sand?"
"No blessed lord, you only spoke of them as grains of sand."
"Subhuti, if there were as many Ganges rivers as there are
grains of sand in the river Ganges, and if there were as many
buddhalands as there are grains of sand in all those innumerable
rivers, would these buddhalands be considered numerous?"
"Very numerous indeed, lord buddha."
"Listen up, Subhuti. Within these innumerable buddhalands
there are every form of sentient beings with all their various
mentalities and attitudes, all of which are fully known to the
well-traveled one, but not one of them is held in the well-
traveled one's mind as an arbitrary conception. They are all
merely thought of. Not one of this vast accumulation of
conceptions since beginningless time, through to the never ending
future, not one of them is graspable."
 The buddha continued, "What do you
think Subhuti? If a
follower were to give away enough goods to fill 3,000 universes,
would a great blessing and merit incur to him or her?"
Subhuti replied, "Honored one, such a follower would acquire
considerable blessings and merit."
The lord buddha said, "Subhuti, if such a blessing had any
substantiality, if it were anything other than a figure of
speech. The well-traveled one would not have used the words
blessings and merit."
 Again the lord buddha inquired of
Subhuti, saying, "Can the
well-traveled one be fully known through any manifestation of
form or idea?"
"No, world-honored one! The well-traveled one cannot be
fully known through any manifestation of form or idea. Why?
Because the phenomena of form and idea are inadequate to express
buddhahood. They can only serve as mere expressions, a hint of
that which is inconceivable.
"What do you think, Subhuti? Can the well-traveled one be
fully known through any of his transcendent transformations?"
"No, world-honored one! The well-traveled one cannot be
fully known even by his transcendent transformations. Why?
Because what the well-traveled one has referred to as
'transcendent transformations' is merely a figure of speech. Even
the most advanced bodhisattvas are unable to fully realize via
intuition that which is essentially inscrutable."
 The lord buddha then warned Subhuti,
saying, "Subhuti, do
not believe that the well-traveled one ever thinks, 'I ought to
present a system for teaching spiritual truths.' You should never
entertain such an idea. Why? Because if anyone thinks this way,
they will not only be misunderstanding the teachings of the well-
traveled one, but they will be slandering as well. Furthermore,
what has been referred to as 'a system of teaching' has no
meaning, because truth cannot be cut up into pieces and arranged
into a system. The words can only be used as figures of speech."
Then Subhuti, blessed with enlightened, transcendent
intelligence, said to the buddha, "Blessed lord, in future ages
when any sentient beings happen to hear this scripture, will the
essential elements of faith arise within their hearts?"
The lord buddha said, "Subhuti, why do you still think in
such arbitrary terms? There are no such things as sentient
beings, neither are there any non-sentient beings. Why? Because
what you think of as sentient beings are unreal and non-existent.
When the well-traveled one has used such words in is teachings,
he has merely used them as figures of speech. Your question is
 Subhuti again asked, "Blessed lord,
when you attained
complete enlightenment, did you feel in your mind that nothing
had been acquired?"
The buddha replied, "That is it precisely, Suhuti. When I
attained total enlightenment, I did not feel, as the mind feels,
any arbitrary conception of spiritual truth, not even the
slightest. Even the words 'total enlightenment' are merely words.
[23a] "Furthermore Subhuti, what I have
attained in total
enlightenment is the same as what all others have attained. It is
undifferentiated, regarded neither as a high state, nor a low
state. It is wholly independent of any definite or arbitrary
conceptions of an individual self, other selves living beings, or
a universal self."
[23b] "Subhuti, when someone is selflessly
should also practice being ethical by remembering that there is
no distinction between one's self and the selfhood of others.
Thus one practices charity by giving not only gifts, but through
kindness and sympathy. Simply practice kindness and you will
become fully enlightened.
"Subhuti, what I just said about kindness does not mean that
when someone is being charitable they should hold onto arbitrary
conceptions about kindness, for kindness is, after all, only a
word and charity needs to be spontaneous and selfless."
 The buddha continued, "Subhuti, if a
treasures as high as 3,000 of the highest mountains, and gave
them to others, his or her merit would be less than what would
accrue to the person who simply observed and studied this
scripture and, out of kindness, explained it to others. The
latter person would accumulate hundreds of times the merit,
hundreds of thousands of trillions of times the merit. There is
 The lord buddha continued, "Do you
think, Subhuti, that the
well-traveled one would consider in his own mind, 'I will deliver
human beings'? That would be a degrading thought. Why? Because
there are not really any sentient beings to be delivered by the
well-traveled one. Should there be any sentient beings to be
delivered by the well-traveled one, it would mean that the well-
traveled one was harboring in his mind some arbitrary conceptions
about phenomena, such as a self, other selves, living beings, and
universal self. Even when the well-traveled one refers to himself
he is not holding on to such arbitrary thoughts. Only earth
people think of selfhood as a personal thing. Subhuti, even the
expression 'earth people' as used by the well-traveled one does
not mean that there are any such beings. It is merely used as a
figure of speech."
 Then the buddha inquired of Subhuti,
"What do you think
Subhuti? Is it possible to recognize the well-traveled one by the
32 physical marks?"
Subhuti replied, "Yes, world-honored one, the well-traveled
one may thus be recognized."
"Subhuti, if that were true then Chakravartin, the
mythological king (who also had the 32 marks) would be called a
Then Subhuti, realizing his error, said, "World-honored one,
now I realize that the well-traveled one cannot be recognized
merely by his 32 physical marks of excellence."
The lord buddha then said, "Should anyone, looking at an
image or likeness of the well-traveled one, claim to know the
well-traveled one and worship him, that person would be mistaken,
not knowing the true well-traveled one."
 The lord buddha continued, "Subhuti,
do not think the
opposite either, that when the well-traveled one attained total
enlightenment it was not by means of his possessing the 32 marks
of physical excellence. Don't think that way. Otherwise, when you
begin the practice of seeking total enlightenment you would think
that all systems of phenomena and all conceptions about phenomena
are to be rejected. Don't think that way. Why? Because when a
person seeks to attain complete enlightenment, they should
neither grasp after nor reject arbitrary conceptions of reality."
 The lord buddha continued, "Subhuti,
if someone gives
treasures equal to the number of sands on the shores of the
Ganges River, and if another, having realized the egolessness of
all things, thereby understands selflessness, the latter would be
more blessed than the one who practiced external charity. Why?
Because great bodhisattvas do not see blessings and merit as a
Subhuti inquired of the lord buddha, "What do you mean
'great bodhisattvas do not see blessings and merit as a private
The lord buddha replied, "Because those blessings and merit
have never been lusted after by those great bodhisattvas, they do
not see them as private possessions, but as the common possession
of all beings."
 The buddha said, "Subhuti, if any
person were to say that
the well-traveled one is now coming or going, or sitting up or
lying down, they would not have understood the principle I have
been teaching. Why? Because while the expression 'well-traveled
one' means 'he who has thus come, thus gone,' the true well-
traveled one is never coming from anywhere or going anywhere. The
name 'well-traveled one' is merely an expression."
 The lord buddha resumed, "Subhuti, if
any good person,
either man or woman, were to take 3,000 galaxies and grind them
into microscopic powder and blow it into space, what do you
think, would this powder have any individual existence?"
"Subhuti replied, "Yes, lord, as a microscopic powder
infinitely dissipated, it might be said to have a relative
existence, but as you use words, it has no existence. The words
have only a figurative meaning. Otherwise the words would imply a
belief in the existence of matter as an independent and self-
existent thing, which it is not.
"Furthermore, when the well-traveled one refers to the
'3,000 galaxies,' he could only do so as a figure of speech. Why?
Because if the 3,000 galaxies really existed, their only reality
would consist in their cosmic unity. Whether as microscopic
powder or as galaxies, what does it matter? Only in the sense of
the cosmic unity of ultimate being can the well-traveled one
rightfully refer to it."
The lord buddha was very pleased with this reply and said,
"Subhuti, although earth people have always grasped after an
arbitrary conception of matter and galaxies, the concept has no
true basis; it is an illusion of the mortal mind. Even when it is
referred to as 'cosmic unity' it is inscrutable."
 The lord buddha continued, "If any
person were to say that
the well-traveled one, in his teachings, has constantly referred
to himself, to other selves, to living beings, and a universal
self, what do you think, would that person have understood my
Subhuti replied, "No, blessed lord. That person would not
have understood the meaning of your teachings. For when you refer
to them, you are not referring to their actual existence, you
only use words as figures of speech, as symbols. Only in that
sense can words be used, for conceptions, ideas, limited truths,
and spiritual truths have no more reality than have matter and
Then the lord buddha made his meaning even more emphatic by
saying, "Subhuti, when people begin their practice of seeking to
attaining total enlightenment, they ought to see, to perceive, to
know, to understand, and to realize that all things and all
spiritual truths are no-things, and, therefore, they ought not to
conceive within their minds any arbitrary conceptions
 The lord buddha continued, "Subhuti,
if anyone gave to the
well-traveled one treasures sufficient to fill the universe; and
if another person, a good man or woman, in seeking to attain
complete enlightenment were to earnestly and faithfully observe
and study even a single stanza of this scripture and explain it
to others, the accumulated blessing and merit of that latter
person would be greater.
"Subhuti, how can one explain this scripture to others
without holding in mind any arbitrary conception of things and
phenomena and spiritual truths? It can only be done, Subhuti, by
keeping the mind in perfect tranquility and in selfless harmony
with the thusness of being well-traveled. Why? Because all the
mind's arbitrary conceptions of matter, phenomena, and of all
conditioning factors and all conceptions and ideas relating
thereto are like a dream, a phantasm, a bubble, a shadow,
evanescent dew, a flash of lightening. Every true student should
see all phenomena and all activities this way, and thus keep the
mind free and selfless and tranquil."